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Maximize Your Rich Media Delivery Investment

We all know that delivering high quality video experiences to end-users' increases engagement, reduces abandonment and benefits the business. 

To learn more about this topic read Chris Nicholson's post entitled "New Video Quality Study Examines Causes of Viewer Behavior."

With the 2013 NAB Show just around the corner, media companies, however, should not forget that, for the most part, end-users discover and consume video based on where the video is displayed. One could argue that the Websites and native apps that act as containers are as important as the videos themselves. 

When it comes to delivering quality Web and mobile applications to end-users, a lot of the same challenges apply as for video delivery. For example the proliferation of mobile devices has completely changed the way end-users interact with your online experiences. We all know that mobile is big and becoming more important by the day. Anyone that doubts this just needs to look at the images below contrasting the last two papal inaugurations in 2005 and 2013, respectively:
Image Credits: NBC News / Luca Bruno / AP & Michael Sohn / AP
Now let's focus on how to create engaging, holistic experiences across smartphones, tablets and PCs. We know that end-users have high expectations when it comes to Web and mobile application experiences. In fact, Akamai commissioned Forrester to conduct some end-user research back in 2009 and asked consumers how fast they expect a Website to load on their PC? Forty-seven percent said two seconds or less. In 2011, another company asked the same question but of smartphone users - how fast do you expect a Website to load on your smartphone? Thirty-four percent said two seconds or less. In 2012, the same company asked the same question of tablet users. The result: Close to 70% of end users expect Websites to load in two seconds or less. That's the majority and that's fast.

Slide2.jpgIf you look at these stats, a couple of things immediately. End users don't care about the underlying technological challenges required to deliver fast, quality experiences over wireless and cellular networks; they just want sites to work and to be fast. The second thing to notice is that end-user expectations just keep getting higher - just like every time Ferrari releases a new car - it has to be faster, more engaging, better in every way. Web experience expectations are no exception - apps need to be faster, more engaging, richer, etc.

The problem is that delivering more engaging and richer experiences to consumers faster is difficult. Let's look at the apps themselves. To deliver richer, more engaging experiences, applications have grown and become more complex. Bigger pages, more images, more JavaScript, more CSS, and even more third-party integrations, whether it's social media or analytics or ratings and reviews or even chat. One of the challenges associated with this trend of larger, more complex applications is that they need to be delivered to end-users' devices. We have become used to high-bandwidth, low-latency environments like a PC on a wired cable connection. But if you throw mobile devices into the mix, connecting through Wi-Fi or 3G or even 4G, you see this change significantly. Not only is the available bandwidth much lower, the latency is much higher. Delivering un-optimized sites over these networks usually results in slower experiences. 

So are media companies meeting end-user expectations of sub two-second load times? Based on Web performance benchmark data from Keynote and Gomez, the average Website response time across top U.S. media companies is around four seconds. And what about smartphones? For mobile sites delivered to smartphones over 3G, the average response time is around 14 seconds - far off end-user expectations across the board.

At this point you might be wondering, "Does it even matter if our sites and apps are slow?" Yes, it matters. It matters to the business. If dissatisfied with Website performance, close to 50% of mobile users are unlikely to visit the site again. Looking at survey data is good, but let's look at real customer data from the field. Torbit released some great Real-User Monitoring (RUM) data last year clearly showing that the slower the page the higher the bounce rate and the lower the engagement:

So how can you maximize your video delivery investment?

Start by adopting your customers' perspective. How are my current Web and mobile applications that act as a video wrapper performing; how do they compare to the competition; will viewers be engaged long enough to consume video?

You also need to ensure you deliver fast, consistent experiences across all situations. In other words, a user on a tablet over Wi-Fi needs to get a different experience than a user on a smartphone on 3G. Now this seems self explanatory, but make sure you take all the different contexts of your users into account here. Are they using Wi-Fi in a coffee shop? How capable is the device they are using? Not only should you be aware of all of these end-user situations, but you also need to optimize your experience for each of them. If you do this on the video delivery side with adaptive bitrate streaming, should you not also do this on the Web or mobile application delivery side?

This dovetails with the last recommendation, which is to optimize for mobile first - in particular if you are exploring new Web development scenarios like responsive web design. Focus on the essentials, reduce the number of bytes delivered to the end user, reduce the number of requests over the network required by your application, and make sure that you accelerate rendering.

Delivering fast, scalable Web and mobile applications in addition to high quality video will result in a better user experience, which in turn will increase engagement and reduce viewer abandonment.

Going to NAB? Stop by our booth at SL2724 to learn more about how Akamai can help with your web and mobile application initiatives. And you can visit us anytime at Akamai.com.